Joseph David Dorsey strangled 47-year-old Christine Stewart, stuffed her body in a suitcase, and then left it behind at a motel in Poway in 2012. The two were said to be dating at the time of the murder.
Stewart's 's family was present for the sentencing. Judy Brauer, Stewart's mother, made an emotional statement.
"I'm not the same person I was a year ago, my heart is destroyed, I didn't even get to say goodbye to my daughter, because she was stuck in a suitcase," said Brauer.
Dorsey killed Stewart at his Lake Elsinore apartment before heading to Poway, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office said.
According to the prosecution, Dorsey then used Stewart's own credit card to buy himself a milkshake. The facts of the case infuriate the family.
"It still breaks my heart that this man, this creature, can't even look at me, he did it to me, did you look at Chris when you murdered her?" said Brauer.
Stewart's mother then walked up to Dorsey.
"This is my Christine, Joe, do you want to see this? Well, here everybody, this is my Christine who was murdered," she said, showing the court a photo of her daughter.
Stewart's son also spoke out.
"She helped me with so much, she helped me graduate high school, she shoved me out to the Air Force," he said.
The victim's sister talked about the impact Stewart had as a drug and alcohol rehab counselor.
"She was just kind, and loving, and giving, and forgiving," said Pam Reeves." said Pam Reeves.
Reeves made one last statement to Dorsey.
"On behalf of my sister and her family, and I speak for my sister, you can rot in hell you piece of [expletive]," she said.
The family did leave the courthouse a little disappointed, however. They say they wanted to see Dorsey head straight off to prison. Instead, he'll be back in court one week from Friday to deal with a fugitive warrant matter from another state.